Federal judge tore up Meta attorney’s ‘too many footnotes’ in defense of FTC lawsuit

Tech companies love fine print and lengthy service announcements that bore readers. U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg did not.

Judge orders Meta to limit “excessive footnotes” in a motion filed by its attorneys in response to an FTC antitrust lawsuit.

Lawyers for Facebook’s parent company last week filed a briefing with 19 footnotes, including a more than 150-word brief on how the social network can be used as a noun or verb.

Judge Boasberg rejected the tech giant’s motion and ordered Meta to refile “no more than five footnotes containing no more than 20 lines of total text” by the end of Friday.

The judge cited the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s rule on excessive footnotes and said the use of footnotes in the Meta case appeared to bypass the page limit.

Meta complied and filed a revised brief with no footnotes, but it’s unclear whether the tech giant is winning over a federal judge.

Earlier this year, Judge Boasberg denied Meta’s request to dismiss the FTC case. The judge previously dismissed the FTC’s 2021 antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, but he allowed the 2022 version to go ahead, writing “Second luck?”

The FTC argues that Facebook, which has maintained a monopoly on the market for personal social networking services for at least a decade, bought Instagram and WhatsApp to neutralize competition. Facebook disputed the allegations and fought the FTC in court.

The antitrust challenges Meta faces are not limited to the federal judiciary, nor are they new. Congress is debating antitrust legislation that could change Meta’s business and its platform.

The House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel released a 450-page report on the dominant market power of Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google in 2020. Along with the Senate Judiciary Committee, the committee has developed a series of antitrust proposals that are currently working to advance.

Bipartisan authors of Congress’ antitrust action against Big Tech are focusing on enacting the American Innovation and Choice Online Act this summer. The bill is designed to prevent big tech companies from highlighting their products on their own platforms, hurting their competition.

In addition to antitrust scrutiny, Meta faces a host of other challenges over how its services handle privacy.

For example, Instagram executives faced questions from senators last year and there are multiple bills introducing new privacy laws that would affect its business and that of other Meta platforms.

States are also investigating Meta, and DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine sued Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in May for alleged violations of consumer protections.

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